What is a bunion? What can I do about it?
A bunion is a structural change in the foot, resulting in a bone deformity at the great toe joint. The long bone, called the 1st metatarsal, at the inside of the foot moves in and the big toe moves towards the small toes. This movement causes a bump at the great toe. The movement of the bones occurs gradually over time in response to abnormal motion of the foot, abnormal position of the foot and tendon pull. Although tight, narrow shoes can contribute to bunion develop, they are not the only cause of bunion development. There are many contributing factors that work together over years to cause a bunion to develop.
Some individuals never develop pain while others gradually notice some pain as a bump seems to form at the great toe. The pain can be dull, achy and throbbing or sharp and intense or even grinding and stiff. The type of pain varies from individual to individual and will depend on the severity of the bunion, the type of activity and shoes, the foot type and if there is any associated arthritis in the big toe joint.
There are a few conservative treatments which may help slow the progression of the bunion and minimize the pain. Custom made orthotics can place the foot in the appropriate position and help remove abnormal tendon pull on the bunion, slowing progression. Wider shoes will decrease the pressure on the great toe and may eliminate pain and slow progression. Bunion night splints will not slow progression or change the structure or shape of the bunion, but may help eliminate pressure type pain while sleeping. Surgery is only recommended when there is pain which limits daily activities. Cosmetic bunion surgery is not recommended.
Even if there is no pain, having your foot evaluated by a podiatrist and having X-rays taken of the bunion will help track the progression and may help with further treatment, if necessary.
More information and pictures of bunions.
last updated 4/22/15
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